, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 702-717
Date: 03 Nov 2012

How Dynamic Visualization Technology can Support Molecular Reasoning

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Abstract

This paper reports the results of a study aimed at exploring the advantages of dynamic visualization for the development of better understanding of molecular processes. We designed a technology-enhanced curriculum module in which high school chemistry students conduct virtual experiments with dynamic molecular visualizations of solid, liquid, and gas. They interact with the visualizations and carry out inquiry activities to make and refine connections between observable phenomena and atomic level processes related to phase change. The explanations proposed by 300 pairs of students in response to pre/post-assessment items have been analyzed using a scale for measuring the level of molecular reasoning. Results indicate that from pretest to posttest, students make progress in their level of molecular reasoning and are better able to connect intermolecular forces and phase change in their explanations. The paper presents the results through the lens of improvement patterns and the metaphor of the “ladder of molecular reasoning,” and discusses how this adds to our understanding of the benefits of interacting with dynamic molecular visualizations.